The axe finally fell on Julen Lopetegui last night, to end what has been a short, disastrous reign as Real Madrid head coach. The former manager of the Spanish national team was appointed to succeed the highly successful Zinedine Zidane at the Bernabeu just days before the start of the World Cup finals in Russia. The announcement led to his sacking by RFEF, the Spanish Football Federation.
Given those circumstances, he would have hoped that his stay at Los Blancos would have been successful, if only to make that experience worth it. Unfortunately for him, a nightmare start to the season has ended his Real career before it even took off. The 5-1 thumping at Camp Nou on Sunday was definitely the final nail in the coffin, with the club now ninth in La Liga standings after ten matches.
Here are five options who could be in line to take over the reins.
The former Chelsea boss is out of work after leaving Stamford Bridge over the summer. He is the strong favourite, given his success in previous postings at Juventus, the Italian national team and of course, with the Blues.
Conte would bring his disciplinarian approach to the club, something that has already caused disconcertment from captain Sergio Ramos. That is, however, unlikely to deter president Florentino Perez if he feels that Conte is what the team needs.
Mauricio Pochettino is undoubtedly a very attractive option for Perez. He has worked in La Liga with Espanyol previously, his work with Southampton and Tottenham in England has been nothing short of impeccable and he has expressed aversion to Barcelona.
Prising the Tottenham boss away from North London would undoubtedly be the hardest part, given how difficult it is to negotiate with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy. It has been reported, though, that Pochettino is increasingly warming up to the idea of finally leaving Wembley for a bigger club.
Belgium national team boss Roberto Martínez has emerged as a contender for the Real job, after reports that he would welcome the chance to return to club management. His previous experience working with clubs came at Swansea City in the Championship as well as Wigan Athletic and Everton in the Premier League.
It’s his work with the Belgian Red Devils that has however catapulted him to serious consideration for the world’s top jobs. He led them to a third-place finish in the World Cup. His attractive, attacking style of football would also appeal if Real wish to challenge Barcelona in that way.
The largely unknown 42-year old Argentine coach, Santiago Solari has been promoted from Real’s “Castilla” B team to caretaker manager whilst the club seek a permanent replacement for Lopetegui. Solari played for the Bernabeu club between 2000 and 2005 after completing a controversial switch from city rivals Atletico Madrid.
He will hope that he can somehow follow the footsteps of Zidane, who took the same leap from Castilla to the first team three years ago.
Perez has been known to make some unexpected appointments in his time as president of the club, not least when he chose Rafael Benitez to succeed Carlo Ancelotti in 2015. It would not be extremely shocking if he went out of his way to appoint another outside-the-box option this time around.
Arsène Wenger left his post at Arsenal this year after 22 years at the club. He is one of the most experienced managers in the game and has been linked to Real in the past. Leonardo Jardim may not be fancied following this season’s struggles and subsequent dismissal at Monaco this season, but his record at the Ligue 1 club suggests he carries promise. Perez must also surely be considering a proposal for a return to Zidane, as unlikely as that may be!